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The Ultimate Amazon Gift Guide {Christmas 2016} – $15 and Under

After Black Friday + Cyber Monday week, I’m beginning to feel like the Queen of the Internet. Between packaging and shipping Paint and Prose orders (y’all kept us hopping! Thank you!), I’ve spent most evenings with one eye on the Gilmore Girls “Year in the Life” special (my reaction? Mostly “meh”) and the other on my computer screen as I hunted down thee absolute best deals on the last few lights/sinks/faucets/etc. we need for the new house. It’s definitely paid off (I scored the turquoise lights I posted about last week for over the kitchen island for an awesome price with an extra Black Friday discount!).

A friend of mine asked me and Shaun if we would miss all of this planning/building when it’s over, and we just looked at each other and laughed. So, yeah. The answer is no. We both love a good project, and this house is a good one. But neither one of us will be sad when all of these lights I’ve found are hung instead of sitting around the workshop creating a death trap for anyone who dares venture in in search of a screwdriver.

ANYway, all that to say that, in the midst of all of this house research, I manage to squeeze in a bit of Amazon recon too. And, just like I’ve done for the last–3??–years, I’m sharing my finds with y’all!

We’ll start with our first–and most affordable–installment: the $15 and under crowd.

This “category” is so exhaustive that I feel like I could have included about 50 other items, but just remember that, if you don’t see something you love here, you can always go back and browse my guides (I’ve even got one specifically for men!) from the past few years. Quite a few items are still available and for the same or similar prices.

And so, without further ado, in no particular order, I give you:

giftguide16collage

1.

If you’ve got any pillows lying around that you’re considering donating to Goodwill, you should definitely take a gander at Amazon’s (extensive) pillow cover offerings before you load them up. Most of the covers are extremely reasonable ($3-$7) and cute as can be. (See “bike” exhibit above and “compass” exhibit below)

2.

These monogram mugs are pretty and really well-reviewed. They look like Anthro but come shipped to your door for FREE (the notes say they’ll arrive before Christmas, and Amazon is usually pretty true to its word).

3.


I’m all about dainty, gold, intial jewelry. It’s personal and pretty. I’ve had my “M is for Mama” initial necklace for years, but I’ve never had a bracelet to match. It would be hard to find a cuter or more affordable option.

4.

As usual, I’m including something from Rifle Paper Co. because…how could I not? Her stuff is just so stinkin’ pretty, and these floral, stitched notebooks are no exception. They would make great stocking stuffers or fillers for teacher gifts if you split up the three-pack.

5.

Oh, and speaking of pretty florals and writing, these pencil pouches are adorable, and at 5 for 6.99 + Prime shipping, you really couldn’t find a better deal on a cute, functional add-on gift.

6.

Got a lover of organization in your life? This desk caddy–which looks way cuter in its TEAL option–gets good reviews.

7.

I snapped this one up as soon as I spotted it. I haven’t gotten it yet, but it has great reviews, Prime shipping, and a (hopefully) flattering cut. Plus, I like the simplicity of the black/white + scrolly font.

8.

I bought The 50 States book for my kids last year, and it’s a super fun (and adorably illustrated) way to learn some interesting trivia about–well–America’s 50 states. And this accompanying activity book looks like a great way to engage your kids in a playful learning experience. Bonus: because the illustrations are so bright and colorful, it’s makes a great coffee table/decorative shelf book too!

9.

I don’t usually include a lot of children’s items, but this one is a game-changer, y’all. I know it looks like your everyday, average baby toy, but–and this is important–it super portable and has SUCTION CUPS! At lunch at Chick-fil-a with a friend one day, Theo started getting restless in his high chair, but he was still too little to be let loose in the zoo play area. My friend whipped this little wonder out of her bag, plunked it down on the table (the handy suction cups keep it in place), and Theo proceeded to happily fiddle with it for the next 20 minutes. Sheer genius! I’ve already given this as a baby gift and will do so again and again.

10.

I ordered this one too! Haven’t gotten it yet, but it’s the top-rated/selling mask on Amazon and at 8.8 oz for less than $15, the price can’t be beaten! I’m interested to see if it helps my dry, winter skin.

11.

Amazon always has a strong scarf game, and this blanket scarf (above) and floral one (below) are just a couple that caught my eye from the myriad of super-affordable, pretty options I scrolled through.

12.

Got some hot drink lovers in your life? These canisters are precious and cheap! (Granted, they’re not large, but they would make a fun addition to a shelf or countertop).

13.

Speaking of cute decor, this wire basket + bottle combo is adorable, handy, and decently-sized (12″ long). I love multifunction serving pieces, and this would work great for holding paper straws on a party table, flowers at the dinner table, or even silverware!

14.

I’m a total iPhone rebel, and it’s not that easy to find great phone cases for my Galaxy S5. This one, though, is both sturdy AND pretty. And with a major Rifle Paper Co. vibe at only $9 (with PRIME), the price is insanely good.

Here’s your option if you are an iPhone devotee.

(If neither one of these fits your phone size, just search for the same terms plus your model, and it should pop up).

15.

I try to include a polish pack with each gift guide because they’re such a cheap but still thoughtful way to finish out a gift. I love the teal + pink + berry combo here.

16.

This wallet is designed SPECIFICALLY with the idea of allowing you to zip your smartphone inside the center compartment. I love being able to snag my wallet from my purse and have everything I need contained in one place without hauling the entire bag inside. (The floral design is, by far, my favorite, but if it’s not your jam, there are about 10 other options).

17.

I realize this one is a bit of an outlier, but if you’ve got a DIY/decor lover on your list, you might consider this fun tassel project for her. The tassels have to be assembled, but would make great party or kid/craft room/closet decor once you’re done!

18.

I love pom poms. I always have. So, I’m glad they’re actually in style now. This pom pom hat has great reviews for style and functionality and comes in a SLEW of great colors!

19.

Another one for the littles (although I wish they made them in my size because the patterns are great!). This is an 8 PACK for $13 and Prime shipping. And they’re so stinkin’ cute that I almost wish Baby #7 were a girl just so I could buy one of these for myself. I guess I’ll settle for getting them for my cutie-pie 1-year-old niece instead.

20.

People rave about these Capri candles, and while I’ve never owned one, I get the hype because whenever I’m at a friend’s house who has one, they are just the yummiest smelling things! This is one is a little under $15 (it’s a smaller size), ships free with Prime, and comes in 5 different “flavors.”

Aaaaaand there you have it! 20 great options for your loved ones (or, ahem, you). Stay tuned for the next installment ($30 and under) on Monday!

Disclosure: all of these are Amazon associate links, which means that, if you purchase, I’ll receive a small percentage, without its changing the price for you. So, we both win!

BONUS (I found some more!):

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Cyber Monday Paint and Prose Sale!

Happy Cyber Monday! AKA: the day my children asked me if we really had to do school (hashtag duh, kids).

In honor of this completely made up “holiday,” (and because we like you) Paint and Prose is offering our BEST sale of the year!

Use the code: FIFTYOFF for–you guessed it!–50% off your entire order (of $15 or more).

Good through tonight at 11:59 PM (CST)

We don’t offer a bigger discount than this (because the next stop is pretty much free!), so if there’s something you’ve had your eye on for you or a great, personal Christmas gift, now’s your chance!

Oh, and just for grins and giggles–and because it totally blew my socks off when I took inventory–I thought it would be fun to give you an overview of EVERY SINGLE LAST Paint and Prose print that Lindsay and I have created over the past year plus.

I know some of you are daily readers. Other are browsers. Some of you just check in every couple of months. All great! But I am the actual co-creator of these prints, and even I was surprised to discover just how many we’ve cranked out!

So, without further ado, I give you: the entire Paint and Prose oeuvre.

Pssst: click the category link of each of these to be taken to the collections featured in the pictures. 

CHRISTMAS

joytotheworldcollagechristmascollage

INSPIRATIONAL

inspirationalcollageinspirationalcollage1inspirationalcollage2

HASHTAG

hashtagcollage

 

KITCHEN 

kitchencollagekitchencollage1

JUST BECAUSE

Justbecausecollagejustbecausecollage1

 

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Antique. Turquoise. Pendant. Lights

Edit: A sweet reader found the lights I talk about below for cheaper. YAY!

So, was my punctuation/capitalization dramatic enough to catch your attention?

Hope so.

Because I think I may have solved my kitchen lighting quandary.

With THESE:

turquoise light2I mean, hello. They’re turquoise. Or–more appropriately in my mind–aged teal. (Because the fact of the matter is that, as much as I love all shades of blue-green, true, glaring turquoise is my least favorite).

I stumbled across these on a random Pinterest jaunt after a very (verrrry) long day of cleaning and organizing at the new house on Saturday.

And I must admit that I sat up a little straighter.

Now, here’s the thing: they’re not exorbitantly expensive, but they are more than I’d like to pay for a light for which I need more than one (possibly three). The best price I’ve found so far is: $178 (shipped).

They’re quite a bit narrower (though somewhat taller) than the gargantuan light that we originally had planned for over the island but still have the industrial elements I love, with the extra bonus of a fun–but not too loud–color. My signature color at that! (Yes, that was a shameless Steel Magnolias reference).

At 13″ wide, I think we could definitely (easily) fit 3 over our 12 foot island.

BUT!

I’d love to get away with just 2 to cut down on costs.

Of course, we’ll measure and approximate as best we can, but I was kind of pleased to discover this shot on the same Pinterest jaunt:

turquoise lights kitchen

via

Those aren’t the same lights, but they do bear a striking resemblance. And if my powers of estimation are even mildly accurate (I’d like to think they’re at least average if the amount of times I’ve opened the back of my van and said: “Yup, it’ll fit,” in the face of very dubious men loading furniture…and been right…is any indication), then that’s about a 12 foot island, and those pendants are probably about a foot wide each.

So…what do you think of my discovery?

Better than the other options?

Could I “make do” with just two? (Yes, I could. I know I could. Just trying to get some feedback here).

 

 

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Shedding Some Light on the New Kitchen {Help!}

I’ve mentioned several times that my favorite part of this whole building process is when we land on a decision and can just move onto the next.

Which…is what I thought we’d done when we chose this pendant light for our kitchen island.

mercana light

I loved the brass finish and the industrial details. Sadly, they only had one left in stock at the super-sale price I’d found, but we went ahead and ordered it.

When it arrived, I liked it even better in person than online. Except. It was big. Like really, really big.

I knew this. I had paid close attention to the measurements, gotten out a tape measure, mocked it up…the works.

What I wasn’t able to anticipate was just how hefty the cage grill and industrial-style connection on top of the light would be.

gaffert

 

I honestly don’t think this picture does the light justice either in how pretty it is or just how massive it is.

In any case, both Shaun and I were thrown for a loop because we both agreed that–although we like industrial–this one might be a bit much. Of course, we were also grateful that only one had been in stock because, if we’d gotten three of these suckers, they would have completely overpowered the rest of the kitchen. 

Which brings me right back around to trying to figure out which lights to put over the kitchen island. I’m not quite back at square one, since I know for sure what I don’t want, but I am a bit torn between several good options, and I’d love your input.

Okay, so first of all, we have the replacement industrial option: the Dawson pendant light, which is also probably my first preference. I think. Hm. #indecisivemuch

industrial lightI love the pop of brass at the top (I’ll have brass hardware on the cabinets), and I love the weathered look and the cage grill that adds interest without being over-the-top.

industrial light inspo1

This kitchen isn’t so very similar to how ours will be, but the color of the island is almost identical to what I’m leaning toward for our lowers (we’ll have white uppers), and at the very least, the industrial pendants give a similar feel to the one above (plus our island will be about the same wood tones as that pedestal table in the foreground, so the overall color scheme is at least comparable).

I’ve shared Jess’s lovely kitchen before, but one of my favorite things about it is how she manages to marry several different lighting styles in one space.

industrial light inspo2

Crystal chandies + industrial bowls + traditional chandelier. Yup. I like it.

Now, my style won’t be nearly this romantic (I lean toward cleaner lines, but I have zero complaints about what she’s done; it’s gorgeous).

Of course, this “Ursula” pendant could be fun too. It’s an ah-mazing price compared to how much it costs everywhere else.

ursula pendant

industrial light inspo

Again, this kitchen isn’t quite what we’re going for, but it has the same style lights in shiny chrome, and I do like the way they look over the stained island. I’m not entirely sure that the white of the ones I’m considering–even with the aged brass metal finish–won’t be a bit too sleek for what I’m shooting for. I know. Picky. But they’re fun just the same.

If I don’t go industrial, I’m tempted to go with something simpler that you can see through. Like this globe + brass option.

globe light

I love how globes pendants look in this Fixer Upper kitchen, which IS very similar to both the layout  and color scheme of our (future) kitchen. The option from above isn’t as big as these are, but with three of them, I think we’d still be okay.

globe light inspo

I guess the wild card would be this 3 light option. We could hang two side-by-side and get a WHOLE lot of light for $140 (they’re only $70 each!!)

three light

I guess I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m really into the aged brass look, so, if I went with these guys, I’d Rub ‘n Buff them for sure.

And by now, I think y’all know the drill.

Which one do YOU think I should go with?

Just as a point of reference, here are a few more of my favorite kitchens I’ve pinned that will have a similar feel to the look we’re going for.

Similar elements include: white subway tile, beams, teal + white cabinets, industrial + rustic touches, and aged brass.

kitchen inspo5

Tkitchen inspo kitchen inspo1 kitchen inspo2 kitchen inspo3 kitchen inspo4

 

That last one is waaaaay more French country kitchen than I will actually go, but it’s still pretty darn gorgeous.

P.S. All image sources can be found on my “Farmhouse Kitchens” board on Pinterest.

So, what do you think? Any options I haven’t considered that I should? You know I’m always game!

 

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A Week in the Life…

Well, hi there, guys!

This past week has been a wild ride. I fully intended to blog about many things, but–given the ridiculousness that was my schedule last week–I should haven’t intended any such thing. Because it was never going to happen.

So! Why so ridiculous, this week of mine?

Well, my sister-in-law, Hannah, has been hard at work creating THEE most adorable stick-horses you ever did see (plus lots of other handmade children’s goodies), and she and I thought it would be fun to partner up on a couple of Christmas events (her with her handmade items, and me with Paint and Prose).

crazy week2

(See what I mean about the stick horse adorableness? Hannah made two of these for my twins for their birthday, and they LOVE them. And I bought two from her for a double birthday party I mention below, and they were the one thing that both kids played with immediately out of a plethora of brightly colored, exciting toys. If you need one of these in your life–c’mon, you know you do–email me at blogabbie{at}gmail{dot}com, and I’ll get you connected with Hannah).

Well, turns out, two of those events (one of which was a 2 day affair) ended up being on the same week. Turns out again that Lindsay and I had agreed ages ago to be part of an event (that I’d completely forgotten about) at Moss, a local fair-trade flower shop (pretty much the cutest little flower shop), and–guess what!–it was the evening of one of the events that I’d already committed to. (hashtag yay)

And double guess what! Shaun (who always helps out with printing and organizing for said events when they come up) ended up having a work trip scheduled starting last Tuesday.

Oy!

It was a doozy of a week, y’all. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. My saintly mama, who had already volunteered to keep both Hannah’s and my kids during all of this, got more than she bargained for once the “extra event” rolled in plus Shaun ended up being out of town.

She handled it like a champ, but I’m pretty sure I owe her a vacation on a deserted island.

Basically, my side of things looked like lots of late nights prepping things for various booths and early mornings hauling them to various locations various distances from my house, setting up, working the booths, breaking down, and then doing it again the next day.

Oh! And there was that one time I thought I had the rug for our booth I’d promised at our house only to discover that–nope!–I’d already taken it out to the new property.

Of course, I discovered this only 10 minutes before I needed to jump in the car and haul all remaining stuff to our booth for setup, and OF COURSE, when I got to the property, the gate was locked (duh, Abbie). So, I proceeded to RUN (or hobble awkwardly, as that is the closest a 33-week-pregnant woman gets to running) in heeled boots, no less, down our forever-long driveway and then haul a 35 pound rug back down it to the van. And did I mention that I climbed a fence? Twice.

And the whole time, all I could do was chuckle (and sweat) and think: “If someone videos this, I’m not sure if I should thank him for the laughs or kill him on the spot.”

The cherry on top of the crazy was that my husband told me later that day on the phone as I was giving him quite the visual of my trek down the driveway that the gate wasn’t actually locked that day. It just looked like it was. #thanksalotbabe

The true cherry on top of the cherry, though?

As Lindsay and I were busily working the table at the Moss (flower shop) event, I heard a voice I would know anywhere behind me, but my brain simply could not register what my heart had already recognized until I turned around and saw my husband standing there behind me, flowers in hand, home from his work trip, in the flesh, a full 24 hours earlier than I had expected to see him.

crazy week7

(He had finished his work more quickly than expected and bent over backwards to get himself an earlier flight).

Y’all.

I pretty much shrieked and threw myself at him. And then I cried against his neck. #darnpregnanthormones. I don’t think I had any idea how tenuously I was keeping it together until that instant when it felt safe not to have to.

The poor customer behind me was just kind of staring at the hysterical pregnant lady, but Lindsay–with whom Shaun had conspired to keep me from eating any real food until he got there (even though I kept saying how hungry I was)–was grinning like a Cheshire Cat.

crazy week8

 

{See? I, by contrast, look half-asleep}

Honestly, it was one of the best moments of my entire life. That may sound silly. But to realize how well my husband and best friend (who had been bringing me apples and little bites of this and that to hold me over just so Shaun could take me to dinner) loved me in that moment was very sweet indeed.

Lindsay shooed us off, and Shaun whisked me off for a date. And it was a very good date.

The next day was the Heritage Syrup Festival in Henderson (my hometown), but–if I’m completely honest–it was a complete bust (as far as sales for Paint and Prose). Completely wrong demographic + a bit of an awkward booth location.

The upside was that the slow booth traffic allowed me to walk around for several hours with my parents and the kids–whom I was missing like crazy–taking them to the bouncy houses and the petting zoo and buying them overpriced fair food.

crazy week1

(Theo was festivaled out, apparently)

crazy week

(What is on Della’s face? A wolf? A warthog? A horse? For $2, animal accuracy was clearly not required)

Sunday was another packed day with church plus a birthday party in the afternoon and then prep for homeschool co-op today, but having Shaun back in the mix definitely felt like a great big, “Aaaaah” of relief.

crazy week4

Our neighbors throw thee best parties, complete with bouncy houses and yummy food. Plus, their property is just dreamy.

crazy week5

See what I mean?

I actually got out there and played soccer for 15 minutes–a foolish decision for which I was rewarded with a pulled tendon and some rather impressive Braxton Hicks contractions. But it was tooootttally worth it!

crazy week6

(Theo was super sad to have Daddy home, obviously)

The thing is, as much as I would not have planned last week’s schedule like it ended up if I had known/realized all of the individual moving parts ahead of time, I am challenged by what our pastor said yesterday morning: “What if, every time you were tempted to complain, someone jumped up and said, ‘Wait! First think of 5 things you’re grateful for!’”

And I thought: “Whoa. So simple but so good.”

Of course, way more than 5 things immediately popped to mind, but the most obvious five are definitely: my husband, my mom (and dad who helped a lot too), my children, my freedom, and my Jesus.

When I view a long (not bad, but definitely long) week through the lens of gratitude, it sure does take on a different shine.

So, now you know what I did last week. What about you guys? What have y’all been up to?Any gratitude lists you want to share?

P.S. Thanks so much for those who took the time to email me about my election post–whether or not we agreed. I appreciate you.

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The Anti-Vote

I’m about to break every cardinal rule of “lifestyle blogging” (I don’t consider myself a lifestyle blogger, so that’s okay) today and talk about politics, so gird your loins, y’all. (I’ve been girding mine with prayer and thought for months, so I’m right there with you).

Months ago, when it became apparent that our choices for the presidency were very likely going to be Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the collective cry of despair across our country was almost comical (only not). People on both sides of the political divide were flabbergasted that, out of all of possible options in America, we were left with these two.

In fact, in a quick tumble down an Instagram rabbit hole one day, I happened upon a girl with obviously liberal/feminist leanings (obvious because she declared them, not because I’m inferring them) who still posted a rather amusing meme that went a little something like:

“Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are stranded on a deserted island.

Who survives?

America. American survives.”

I was surprised by her objections to Hillary, considering the rather popular #imwithher feminist mantra of those who are excited for a first woman president, seemingly regardless of her policies or morals. Because one has only to pay even the slightest amount of attention to the FBI’s current investigation–mere days before the election–into the illegal emails and Clinton Foundation political misconduct (more here, here) to deduce that Hillary Clinton is not concerned with: a) our national security or b) any basic standards for right and wrong in politics .

Of course, then there’s Trump. He’s obnoxious. And immoral. And did I mention he’s obnoxious? He’s not a poster child for anything I want to vote for–at least not as a human being. 

But vote for him I shall.

And here’s why: when a Facebook friend posted on social media last spring that he wished there were such a thing as an “anti-vote”–a way to vote against, rather than for, a candidate, I thought: “There IS. It’s called the other candidate.”

I mean, I get his point. If he votes for Trump when he doesn’t actually like Trump, doesn’t that mean that he supports Trump? I say no. Not inherently. It can simply mean that he doesn’t want what the other candidate has to offer. Voila. An anti-vote.

So, why not just choose a third party candidate altogether?

Because this is a crucial election in our nation’s political history–a hinging point, if you will, on which many civil liberties–Christian or otherwise–will turn.

None of the independent candidates can win, which means that a vote for any of them only weakens the chances of one of the primary candidates without changing the fact that one of them will still emerge the victor.

I’ve never made any bones about the fact that I am a conservative, Bible-believing Christian. In case you missed it, I spelled out my thoughts on the Bible and why it determines my worldview pretty clearly in this post.

I believe in the sanctity of human life (and am therefore opposed to abortion even at the chemical birth control level) and the sanctity of marriage between a man and woman (as outlined in Scripture and God’s original design for us in creation). I’m a supporter of Israel, an advocate for the poor, the widowed, and persecuted Christian believers around the world, and a proponent for religious free speech–even if it doesn’t align with the popular culture.

So, why in the world would I vote for a man who certainly appears not to be a Bible-believing Christian? Who, in fact, appears, in many of his public dealings, to be an egotistical blowhard?

Because, somewhat miraculously, regardless of his moral failings, he is still choosing to align himself with people who are moral, godly, and politically conservative, and when I vote for Trump, I am also voting for them.

If I had my druthers, I’d have voted for Ben Carson. Obviously, I didn’t get that option, but under Trump, Carson is likely to be appointed a to significant political position…which is the next best thing. Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, is an admirable, well-spoken Christian man. Rudy Giuliani (possible future Attorney General) is solidly conservative and level-headed (just look at what he accomplished during 911 and then afterwards for the city of New York’s crime rates…which have skyrocketed since he left office).

And then there’s Trump’s list of potential appointees for the Supreme Court (because more than one Supreme Court position is likely to become available during this presidential term, and–as I’m sure you well know–those seats are for life). All of his candidates are solid politically (by my conservative definition :) ). You can listen to a podcast outlining who these potential candidates are and the kinds of issues they could be deciding, if you’re so inclined, or read a concise analysis from an evangelical political insider on how government appointments affect laws here.

And when crucial issues are at stake—such as 1) the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade at a national level 2) a possible return to legalization for partial birth abortions (which Clinton supports), 3) the protection of civil liberties such as a church’s (which is a private institution, not sanctioned or financially supplied by any government) ability to choose what is said from the pulpit (without fear of its being labeled “hate speech” and resulting in loss of jobs, fines, or worse) and who uses which bathroom, 4) an individual’s or organization’s right to NOT pay for someone else’s abortion as part of their mandatory healthcare, and 5) a family’s freedom to home school their children (to name just a few of the issues that really are up for grabs), I will vote for the candidate who has aligned himself with those who support the right (again, according to a conservative Biblical standpoint; I’m making no claims otherwise).

If you think I’m exaggerating about the drastic nature of the hinge on which this election swings, just click on any of the links I included above or do a little digging of your own (this is a great archive of articles on issues just like these if you’re interested), and I think you’ll see that this country could be a frighteningly less free place to be, live, and worship in four years (or less).

Not to mention that, when the limited civil liberties of so many who are already oppressed throughout the world lean so heavily on those of our own currently (largely) free country, that’s no small political responsibility to bear.

But, Abbie. Aren’t you simply arguing for moral pragmatism? How can you live with yourself–especially in the light of Trump’s comments about women and your love for your daughters–if you vote for such a man?

Here’s the thing: I don’t like Trump personally.

But I don’t particularly like Artexerxes, Samson, Jonah, or Darius (to name a few) either.

Huh?

All of those are men in the Bible whom God used in very practical ways to accomplish his purposes. And yet, none of them were particularly likable or admirable. Some of them were completely morally bereft (Artexerxes was willing to commit genocide at the mere whim of a henchman).

God is able to use all sorts of people–even the obnoxious and unsavory types–to work his will.

In fact, he sometimes calls upon godly people to ally themselves with said unsavory types, even when it flies in the face of their moral convictions.

Can you imagine how Daniel felt associating himself politically in an advisory position to a man like King Darius of Persia? The man was a true egotistical blowhard–to the point that, when his advisors came to him and stroked his ego, he passed a law that banned praying or bowing down to anyone but himeven though he knew that his favorite counselor (Daniel) prayed to no other God but the God of Israel daily.

Or what about Esther? She wasn’t asked to vote for a misogynistic braggart (King Artexerxes, who immediately started shopping for a younger, prettier model when his current wife didn’t obey him at the snap of his fingers). She was asked to marry him. She–a pure, undefiled young Hebrew girl–who  could literally have been stoned for sleeping with any man before marriage–much less a pagan king–willingly obeyed her cousin’s request that she join the king’s harem in hopes of winning his favor and becoming his queen because she shared Mordecai’s conviction that the Lord had called her to this moment. Regardless of how unconventional and distasteful that calling seemed.

Of course, if you’ve read Esther, then you know the end to that story: the Lord used Esther’s unusual obedience, beauty, bravery, humility, and wits to literally save her race from annihilation. Could he have done it differently? Sure. Mordecai even told Esther that, if she didn’t step up to the plate, God would choose someone else.

I believe with every fiber of my being in God’s sovereignty. I fully understand that, regardless of who wins this election, the Creator of the Universe is still firmly on his throne.

I would simply argue that–according to the Bible–he can still use imperfect people like you and me (and, yes, even Donald Trump) to accomplish his will.

By the way, I’m not the only one who believes this. Lots of smarter, better-informed, more politically-savvy Christian conservative people than I are also voting for Trump–not because they’re enamored with his character–but because they believe that he is the unlikely best candidate (because of the people and policies that come with him).  (This sermon by Denton Bible Church pastor, Tommy Nelson, entitled “The Continental Divide” is excellent).

I am under no grand delusions that I will change anyone’s mind with any of these thoughts. I simply felt compelled to put them out there for consideration.

To that end, I am turning off comments on this post (the only time I have ever done this). I know that this election is emotionally charged for many, and I would like to avoid any unnecessary fights (not to mention the random internet trolls who get their kicks on forums like this) in the comments section. If you feel compelled to express an opinion to me personally, feel free to use the button on the sidebar to email me. I can’t guarantee I’ll respond. But I just wanted you to know you have that option.

The last thing that I would say and encourage is prayer. I have been praying for this election daily (multiple times a day) for months (as, I’m sure, have many of you), and I will continue to do so throughout this weekend and beyond–for the Lord’s will, for wisdom in how to act, react, and for the salvation of both candidates.

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Stylish Lighting Under $150 (Including actual lights I’m putting in the New House)

I almost titled this post something SUPER cheese-fest like, “Lighting deals so good, they’re scary.” But, considering that we are kind of the opposite of the Halloween Family,  I think that’s just the influence of all of the marketing ad banners that keep popping up as I’m doing the research which now brings you said amazing lighting deals.

But let’s back up a bit and talk about my nasal passages for a moment, k?

What? EW, Abbie. No! Why would we want to do that?

It’s a fair question, but I just really feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t reiterate what I said last week (aka: the last time I actually mustered the energy to post…I know…I’m the worst), and that is: this is THEE worst head cold I have ever had.

I’m on Day 12, and, while I would consider myself technically better by this point, certain symptoms (I’ll spare you the details since I’ve already used the phrase “nasal passage”–twice now–in this post) are still lingering. I still sound like death, which is oh-so-fun for my fitness class participants. But I no longer FEEL like I will meet my Maker at a moment’s notice.

I shudder to think what kind of pestilence I would have ended up with if I hadn’t faithfully dosed myself with: garlic, apple cider vinegar, essential oils, honey/lemon, and Vitamin C and Echinacea. But dose myself I did.

And I’m still here to tell about it. And keep on telling, apparently

Okay, I’m done.

So! This post has nothing to do with coughs and sniffles, so let’s just move right along, shall we?

I’ve mentioned several times that most of my research for the new house has consisted of online sources. Which…is tricky, since you can’t see or touch anything for yourself. Still, if you stick to well-reviewed, trusted brands and pay attention to dimensions, you’re fairly likely to end up with what you were expecting. (Emphasis on the word “fairly”).

I’ve had several people ask me about lighting sources–especially of the barn light/industrial variety–so I thought I’d put together a little round-up of some of the best-looking, most reasonably priced lights that I’ve found in my travels across the wild wastelands of the world wide web (sorry, I’ve been grading high school English papers at our homeschool co-op, and I have alliteration on the brain).

Most of these are options that I’m either seriously considering or have already ordered for the new house, but almost none of them have arrived yet. I’ll update when I’ve seen them in person.

lighting collage

1 / 2/ 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10

And just to be clear, all but 3 of these lights are WELL under $150. Most are under $50!

1. I have seen these galvanized wall sconces  from Lowe’s (they come in a medium and a large size and cost $30/$40 respectively), and I have to say that they look MUCH better in person. The picture up there makes the silver look muddy and dull when, in reality, it has a nice weathered sheen. I am using 3 of these in the boys’ bathroom by their mirrors.

2. I’m ordering no fewer than 5 of this Swing Arm Sconce and hoping for the best. The reviews are good. And I haven’t found anything nearly as close to this pretty in this style for this price ($44 with Prime shipping).

3. This seafoam beauty is one of the pricier options on the list for a single sconce at $125 (well, that’s  build.com’s pro pricing, since we have a builder account, so I think they’re a little more normally). But they’re also one of the most unique. I don’t have a specific place in the new house for one of these…but only because I can get such better deals on something kind of, sort of comparable. The shade is 10″, though, so they would make quite a statement if you had a spot for them.

4. I get asked all. the. time where the lights over my kitchen island are from. Well, the answer is Grandin Road, but the BEST PART is that all of three of the glass pendant styles that I have hanging over the island are on MAJOR sale, and there’s a 30% off code (FRIENDS16) you can stack on top of that right now. Which makes them ridiculously cheap! I just bought 5 more to put in various rooms in the new house that need a single hanging light that still creates a decent glow. Seriously, if you’ve considered these lights before, run grab one before it sells out. Especially since you’ll be getting them for $30-$40 when I’ve seen them elsewhere for $120!!!

5. I love the simplicity of this brass/glass globe pendant, although I do wish it cost less than $100. Still, at 12″, it’s a fair bit of light to work with, and I’m seriously considering it for the downstairs main bath.

6. Oh, how I wish I had a place for this seafoam vanity light. At $120, Joss and Main has it for about 1/2 the price of anywhere else I’ve seen it (don’t ask me why).

7. Likewise for this industrial pendant from the same brand that I’m seriously considering 3 of for over the kitchen island. Joss and Main has them for $104 (they’re big!), which is almost $100 cheaper than anywhere else I’ve found it. The white and aged brass pictured here is currently out of stock, but they’re supposed to get it back, and there are other colors to choose from.

8. Contrary to what you might think based on the picture, this over-the-island pendant is BIG. Like 40″ across, with 16″ shades on those lamps! It would make a huge statement for very little money ($100). I actually seriously considered getting two of them for our island and painting them or changing the color with Rub n Buff, but I think I want something with a little more bling.

9. I did jump all over this $35 (!!!!) vanity light like a duck on a June bug, though (to give you a point of reference for how good of a price this is, Amazon has it for $55, and they’re the next lowest price). I got three–two for the master bath and one for the downstairs half bath–and I plan to paint all three. They are 20″ wide, and the shades are good-sized. Even though I’m going to paint mine, if I liked oil rubbed bronze, I would certainly keep them that way because they look much more expensive than they are. (They’re currently out of stock, but it says they’ll be getting more).

10. I’m ordering 3 of this pretty Brass Globe Sconce to go beside the girls’ mirrors in their bathroom vanity. I love that they’ll add sparkle and lots of light without breaking the bank ($50 each). (A similar light from West Elm or Pottery Barn costs 2-3 times as much).

A couple of honorable mentions:

After months of watching the price go up and down, I ordered this blue beaded chandy from All Modern (which is the same as Joss and Main and Wayfair, in case you’re wondering) when I noticed that they had a clearance/returned version (just one!) for $55 less than the lowest price I had ever seen it go.

blue beaded pendant

It’s more for looks than anything, since it only has one bulb, but there are other light sources in the room, so that’s okay. Oh! And just in case you find yourself compelled to order it too, be warned that the chain (which you can’t see in the picture) and all other metal on this light are YELLOW. Like canary yellow. I will definitely be toning that down with a DIY. Otherwise, it’s a really fun, big light.

Also! I have not ordered this light because I have no need for it, but man, is it pretty!

crystal chandy

And relatively cheap at $190, since most of the ones like it I’ve seen in this size range have been $250+.

And finally, we have the dark horse.

ding light

I really love this green barn light for the three spots we’ve designated for sconces  above the kitchen sink. But I didn’t include it in the collage for two reasons. 1) For some reason, Olioboard (the program I use to create inspo boards) wouldn’t let me add the image, and 2) even though it’s an AH-mazing deal (only $32 for an already funky-color painted 10″ barn light…practically unheard of)–or maybe because it’s such an amazing deal–it’s shipping through Amazon from a Hong Kong based company I’ve never heard of. In other words, I’m going to order 3 of these and then forget that I did it because they won’t show up until Christmas…if they ever do. I figure it’s worth the risk for the price, though, because all of the comparable ones I’ve looked at are LITERALLY 10 times the price, y’all! And apparently, our credit card will cover us if we get completely shafted. Or at least that’s what my finance-savvy husband says.

So!

There you have it. I have seen the light(s). And!!! Best of all, between this list and some craigslist/facebook swap finds over the last 6 months or so, I’ve already knocked out 90% of the new house list!

Whoop! I told you figuring stuff out and calling it done was my favorite!

So, now it’s your turn. I still have a light or two to snag. Namely something large-ish for both living room and “big room” upstairs. Hit me with any brilliant (ha) suggestions you have!

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Charleston or Bust. But hopefully just Charleston…

So, I think I may repost that baby name blog every time I’m pregnant–if for no other reason than to test my ability to cackle really loudly without my treacherous, baby-kicked bladder betraying me.

Y’all are funny. And fun. And if you didn’t go back and read the NEW “this is why I agonized for months over my child’s name” comments, you definitely should. So stinkin’ entertaining.

ANYhoo…today’s “post” is more of a cry for help.

My birthday is Thursday, and we’re headed to Charleston, SC. Normally, we’d just hang out in Tyler or Dallas for the day, but (and I know I say this every time we have another kid, but I really do think it’s true this time) this is probably the last solo trip we’ll get for a loooooong while. Which is totally cool. I mean, 7 kids, y’all. We’ve had a good run.

So, we decided to go for it and visit a city that has long fascinated us but has never been on one of Shaun’s work-trip radars (typically how we choose our travel destinations).

I heard over and over how it’s a super vibrant city with tons of charm and history and character, but…we’ve been so busy that I haven’t had much of a chance to research it like I normally would.

We love doing food tours, but I haven’t found one that just screams our name this time. So, instead, I think we’re going to check out The Fall Tour of Homes.

fall tour of homes

This is just one of the beauties that you can go inside on a tour. I’m thinking we’re not going to get too many practical ideas for our big-family-home in a multi-million dollar mansion, but I love the fact that these homes are chock full of historic detail and charm.

We also love farmer’s markets to get a feel for the local flavor (literally and figuratively), so I’m sure we’ll nose around at least one of those.

There’s also something called the Historic Charleston City Market, which has good reviews. Any locals know whether it’s worth a visit?

Other than that, I have NOT done my due diligence on this pretty city, and I’m starting to feel a bit antsy that we leave Wednesday morning without much of a plan (yes, thanks to the internet, “winging it” will be pretty simple, but still…).

ALSO–and this is a bit of a big deal–there’s a hurricane heading straight for South Carolina this weekend.

I am definitely praying (first for the folks in South Carolina and then, more selfishly, for us) that it doesn’t hit like it could.

So…here’s where the plea for help comes in.

Are you from Charleston? Visited once or often? What should we do/eat/see?

I’d be ever so grateful for any advice you can offer.

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The Baby Name Game

I don’t usually do reposts of past blogs, but the comments on this one (almost exactly) 2 years ago were just so fun to read that I thought I’d be depriving anyone new-ish around here of a treat if I didn’t reshare. Also, I know several of you have had babies since then, so I’d love it if you’d update in the comments about whether you stayed with your “name theme” with your newest kiddo(s). ALSO also, if you’ve already read it, feel free to skip to the end where I give you an (extremely ambiguous and unhelpful) hint about Baby #7′s name. :)
Oh! And I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention that I have a rockin’ giveaway going on over on my Instagram account.
ig giveaway
Yup, one happy girl is going to win $100 shop credit to Evy’s Tree (gorgeous hoodies), $50 shop credit to Paint and Prose, a gorgeous striped + leather bag from Better Life Bags, 2 sterling silver initial rings from my friend Chelsey, and that hilarious “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom” tote from At Home With Natalie.
Go get entered! :)

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

I had a reader ask me about my process for choosing baby names last week, and it got me thinking about a) whether I even have a process, and b) what in blue blazes it is if I do?

And here’s what I’ve decided: I don’t really have a baby name picking process so much as a baby name picking quirk.

For lack of a better term, I’m calling it “name parallelism.”

There’s this thing in grammar called verb parallelism in which you are supposed to keep the form of your verb consistent throughout a sentence. For example, if you’re going with the gerund (a verb ending in “ing” that’s been made into a noun), then you would say, “I like fishing, eating ice cream, and playing in the rain.”

If you were going with the infinitive (the word “to” + an action), you would say: “I like to fish, to eat ice cream, and to play in the rain.”

However, you’re not supposed to say: “I like fishing, eating ice cream, and to play in the rain.”

Mostly just because it’s awkward.

So, why the grammar lesson? Because a) I’m a grammar freak (and, yes, I realize that there are typos and grammar mistakes on this here little ol’ blog in practically every post; I may be a freak, but I don’t catch every mistake…and, sometimes when I do catch one after I’ve already hit publish, I’m too lazy to fix it :) ), and b) the little twitch I get when I read a non-parallel sentence is the same one I get when I think about my children’s names not being parallel.  Or not “matching,” to put it in less geekish terms.

In the words of the immortal Inigo Montoya: “Lemme ‘splain.”

If I had two children, a boy and a girl, and named the first one John and the second one Mary, then I could never, under any circumstances, name a third Rocket. No matter how much I adored the name Rocket. No matter how much it made my soul sing. It would just drive me nuts. And then my soul would stop singing forever. (See? Quirky).

Honestly, I think most people have this in them to some extent since most families with multiple children that I encounter have a pretty high degree of name parallelism.

Keep in mind that this particular quirk is not the same thing as the First Letter Quirk. (See the Duggars and their thing with “J’s”).

But, if you were to look at all of my children’s names, you would see that they have two things in common: 1) they are old-fashioned, somewhat unusual names and 2) they are all only two syllables long (when it comes down to what we actually call them). Ez-ra, Si-mon, Del-la, Ev-y, No-la. Theo. I tend to think that the length thing is purely coincidental, but maybe it’s actually another subconscious name quirk that I have. I guess I need to try to name a kid something longer than two syllables and then actually call him that and see if it makes me itch.

ANYhoo, just for fun, I put together a little graphic of different kinds of name that I consider “parallel.” Feel free to disagree or chime in with more!

baby name gameIt’s interesting to me how, with both the trend-setters (AKA: “I really like last names!”) and the hipsters, there’s a lot of gender ambiguity within the names themselves. Is Taylor a girl or boy? What about Quinn? (I have friends who both have kids named Quinn almost exactly the same age, and one’s a boy, and the other’s a girl). Whereas, with the traditional names, there’s no doubt. Whoever heard of a boy named Caroline??

Of course, as much as I like many of the names above, I fall into a completely different category (the ones above are by no means exhaustive, of course), which I will tentatively call:oldfashioned rebel

Again, these are not ALL the names I like, but they are my favorite kinds of names and–in my strange little mind, at least–they have the same vibe. They’re not your everyday-average-go-to’s, but neither do they inspire visions of dreadlocks and nose rings (nothing inherently wrong with either; they’re just not “me”).

So, what about it, folks? Do you have a name-picking philosophy? Am I the only one who’s weird about names needing to “match?” The funny thing is that it doesn’t usually bother me when I encounter a lack of name parallelism in other families; just mine.

Do you fall into a particular category? Or is it just a “whatever I like” kind of thing? Honestly, I go with what I like. And my husband tends to think like I do (although he has both vetoed a few of my more outlandish preferences and promoted some that I didn’t expect. See: Magnolia). But what I like tends to be pretty consistent.

P.S. Unlike last time, Baby #7′s name is nowhere to be found in the above list. We’re going a little rogue with this one. Not too crazy. But we figured it was time for something a bit different. It still “matches” (again, in my quirky little mind), but it’s not nearly as “normal” as the rest. Feel free to guess away to your heart’s content!

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#Tiebreakerbaby (Baby #7): Who am I?

First up, THANK YOU so much for your words of encouragement, excitement, and celebration with us. I know that we’ve never made it anything close to a secret that if the Lord gave us more children, we’d happily take them, but still, announcing a seventh kid is not always met with such joy and positivity, and I can’t really adequately express how grateful I am for each of you that took the time to say YAY with us! (And each of you who thought: Whuuut? They CRAZY?!…and kept it to yourselves. insert laughing/crying emoji).

7 weeks

7 Weeks – Oh, abs. How I miss thee. Push-ups just aren’t the same without you.

I’ve false started on this post at least 6 times because I wasn’t sure which direction to go with it. Do I do a recap of the whole pregnancy so far? (YAWN…no, really…that would be a good word to sum up how I’ve felt for the most part). Do I hit the highlights? Do I skip the whole first half and go straight to the gender poll? (Because you know I love me a good gender poll).

9 weeks

9 Weeks – Trying on a dress my husband loved in the Vancouver Anthro…sucking in mightily.

So, here is the briefest (that I know how) of recaps, and then we’ll get straight to guessing exactly who is kicking around rather impressively in this big ol’ belly of mine.

I knew VEEEEERRRY early that I was pregnant. How? Because I woke up one morning with the vividest of dreams. Seriously. That was my first clue, at least. Like at maybe 1 week (well, technically, 3 weeks…if you count the two weeks from the 1st day of your last period that they include in your 40 weeks…SO weird that you’re already considered 2 weeks pregnant before you even conceive…but I digress).

13 weeks

13 Weeks – Shopping for the girls. Full of dinner from Zoe’s (my fave “fast” food), and…sucking in mightily.

I literally went from having completely dreamless sleep to 3 days in a row of such intense sleep adventures that I had trouble waking up from them.

And that was it. I just knew.

16 weeks

16 Weeks – at the wedding in Colorado…and not sucking in mightily
enough, I guess. I saw this picture and was like, “Whoa, baby.” And I
wasn’t talking about my husband, although he does look dashing.

So far, this pregnancy has been very similar to my others (well, the twins’ was a little different, but that’s a given). Which is to say: fairly easy and blessedly uneventful.

Buuuuuutttt…I’ve been SO tired. I think (oh, Lord, please) that I’m finally getting some of my energy back, but I’ve really never hit that magical 2nd trimester rush of endorphins and perkiness. I take naps every chance I get, and there have been days when it’s felt like if I didn’t lie down right that second, I might die. Only a slight exaggeration, y’all. This was legit exhaustion.

17 weeks

17 Weeks – on a date in Boulder with Shaun (duh) and–you guessed it–sucking in/angling for all I’m worth.

I’ve also been considerably more nauseated than ever before (including the twins). It’s still nothing compared to what some (many) people deal with–just a generally icky feeling on a fairly regular basis that won’t just go away and stay gone.

ANYhoo, other than that (and let’s face it: the fact that I really don’t like the physical changes and challenges that a pregnancy brings to my body…I’m not a lover of pregnancy, in general), it’s all been good.

Of course, the awesome part is that no amount of tiredness, sickness, aches, or expanding hips can even hold a candle to the exquisite bliss of holding a baby, fresh from heaven, in my arms and marveling at the fact that the Lord used my body to create this little bundle of perfection.

So, that’s where we stand.

baby74

20 Weeks – Because “outtakes” are fun (ahem, twins + my derpy expression). NOT sucking in at all.

This pregnancy has felt slow as molasses so far (despite the summer streaking by in a lightning blur of activity), but I’m hoping, with school starting, that the weeks will just melt away. (I can only imagine once we get into the holiday season).

And now we get to my favoritest part: the gender poll.

So, what do you think?
Is #tiebreakerbaby a boy or a girl?

Because, yes, there is just one in there.

P.S. Guessing whether it’s a boy or a girl is not the same thing as saying that you want it to be a boy or a girl, and my asking what you think is not saying that I have a preference either, so no fair saying: Team Healthy Baby. We are ALL on that team together! :)

P.P.S. After I announce a pregnancy,  I always get an influx of emails asking me questions about: pregnancy (of course), life with lots of kids, birth (particularly of the unmedicated variety), family planning, even pregnancy fashion. I’m happy to (and do) answer all of these individually, but I thought if there are that many folks willing to send emails, then maybe there are others who don’t message me that have questions too? Maybe I’m way off on that. BUT! If you do have a such a question, feel free to ask it in the comments, and I’ll put together a blog post answering all of them soon(ish) :) .

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